On Monday 5 June 2017, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism. Libya and the Maldives subsequently joined the diplomatic withdrawal. Qatar also lost the right to fly to those countries (apparently with the exception of the Maldives) and to fly within their airspace.
The last point is particularly painful for Qatar Airways, based at Doha's Hamad International Aiport, since Qatar's only land boundary is with Saudi Arabia, and airspace over the Persian Gulf adjacent to Qatar is part of the Bahrain FIR. For now, Bahrain has allowed the continued use of a pair of airways in and out of Qatar from Iranian airspace: UR659 inbound and UT430 outbound.
Although this allows Qatar Airways to continue most operations, the airway restrictions require circuitous reroutes, especially for points in Africa. Casablanca, which QR serves daily using a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, is only about 14% longer than the "great circle" (geodesic) path, avoiding Iraq in addition to the other newly-restricted airspace. Three days per week the return is similar; the other four days the return is via Marrakech which requires a slightly longer reroute.
The worst case may be Khartoum, Sudan. QR normally serves this route with three daily flights, the first with an Airbus A321 or A330 and the later two with A320 or A321 aircraft. The reroute increases distance by nearly 120% and adds about 2.5 hours to the flight time. Since the forced rerouting, some flights have been cancelled and others have been flown with Airbus A330 or Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The 2,670-nm route likely exceeds the useful range of the A320 and A321, hence the change to larger, longer-range aircraft.
Today's Featured Map shows the trips from Doha to Casablanca and to Khartoum. The "great circle" (geodesic) path is in blue; maroon is used for an approximation of the path flown by QR 1395 DOH-CMN on Wednesday and QR 1323 DOH-KRT (in a 777-300ER) on Tuesday.
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Karl L. Swartz.
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